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Open Space and What it Means at MCLC

Photographed by Nancy Farese

Once every month, everyone who donates to our organization, receives a letter highlighting what is going on at the Matènwa Community Learning Center. In May we discussed Open Space and what it means at MCLC. Open Space is, "a method for organizing meetings in which participants create the agenda for discussion and take responsibility for driving forward outcomes. Inviting men and women, young and old into the conversation, has enabled MCLC to grow organically and flourish with the full engagement of the community.”

Our most recent Open Space session focused on the prevention of teen pregnancy and involved 103 participants, including parents, teachers, high school juniors and seniors and our school nurse. The group broke into small groups to discuss the role poverty plays in early unwanted pregnancy and what providing emotional support looks like for children, especially in their teenage years. It was noted that parents often become so stressed by their duty to provide

financial support for their children that they forget the importance of providing emotional

support. This Open Space session provided a safe space for parents, teachers and teens to share their experiences, build consciousness, understand accountability and strengthen support

systems. We’re proud of the commitment of the Matènwa community to inspire learning and

growth through a collective group process that doesn’t shy away from challenging issues

At MCLC, the open space concept extends to the classroom. Normally in Haiti, schools teach in the traditional method where students are seated at a small desk, facing the same direction, while the teacher is at the front teaching whatever subject on a board with white charcoal. These classrooms take the shape of graduated, segmented lines, even though, metaphorically, they were intended to signify equality. Unfortunately, this separated structure stymies discussion or meaningful socialization. Conversely, at MCLC, classrooms take the shape of a circle where students can interact with each other and express themselves; no one is left out. In the circle, everyone is treated equally. We make it a priority that this circle remains a judge free zone.

You may ask, does this “Open Space” approach affect students in a positive way? Is it a challenge for teachers to teach this way? Delson Angrevil, whom you may have seen in our Father's Day social media posts, is a teacher at MCLC. He teaches children in the first grade. According to Delson, with this method, not only do you witness more participation, it is easier to moderate children in a circle, even when one isn’t paying attention. Students in a circle feel more comfortable to share their ideas and therefore are more engaged, better behaved, and learn more. He sees the cumulative impact of this method in their passing test scores. Open Space is working!

Photographed by Nancy Farese

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